About this semester (in Corona times)

Currently, it’s not clear what the semester brings. Right now, Sunday, 3rd of January, it seems that the government won’t have us campus lectures until 18th January. It’s difficult to predict what will happen afterwards and when we will learn about that.

Here’s at least my plans for this semester


As long as there are no physical lectures, I will zoom them at the planned timeslots. I am not allowed to record them as long as there are questions or other personally identifiable information on record, so I won’t. Instead I will make additionally a screencast (without audience and without interaction) which I will upload piece by piece. The screen casts will not be portioned into 45min (or 90min) lectures, but parcelled up into topics, i.e. following the section structure.

If physical lectures will be allowed later in the semester, I will probably switch back to campus lectures. I think under normal circumstances, it’s the best way, everything else is a compromise. However, it depends on the interest of the audience. If a majority chooses to stay away in home office, I might continue zooming. Additionally, I will make a personal risk evaluation. Unlike during autumn semester, where bicicling was possible, I will have to use public transport for work in the winter months. If I have the impression that public transport remains too risky, I might also choose the virtual-only solution (if the University allows that).


Exercises will depend on two factors, whether there will be physical meetings or not, and what kind of exam we will do. The exams discuss problems in connection with the lecture, requiring to do some constructions (like turning a regular expression into some automaton or massaging a grammar so that it can be used in a parser). The exercises are pen-and-paper. In the exercises one might have to perhaps massage a given grammar so that it can be used in a parser. In the oblig one has to concretely write a parser, including an appropriate grammar grammar and embedding it into the rest of one’s compiler.

Last year’s experience showed, that Zooming exercises did not work so well. Exercises is about activating the students to at least try the exercises by oneself. Especially for exercises, the old saying applies

Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners. (John Holt)

Last time it was more like that I was zooming my reflections on how the exercises are solved plus repeating partly required background from the lecture to a more or less silent arrangement of black zoom panels. We have to see what to do better this time.

The other factor is the exams. Exercises is a good preparation for a standard written exam. This time there might well be a oral exam (or a home exam). If so, the relative importance as preparation for the exam for this form of exams is reduced. Solving ``puzzles’’ like the ones in the exercises is not really the (main) target in oral exams (the time is too short).


As far as I see on the internet, the exam has been announced as being home exam. That seems a preliminary text. Last year, it was an oral exam. I will see if one can change it back to oral.


The obligs will be done as before, Corona won’t have much influence there. It will be a programming project, namely programming a ``compiler’’. Not a full one for a fully developed programming language, but still. That’s done best in groups of 2 students (sharing the work), and typically thus done from home anyway. You can browse the compila repository, which contains the starting point for the project, at least the starting point for the spring semester 2020. For each round of the lecture, I massage the code specification and the code base slightly, so that it doesn’t get boring.

About this (and other) channels

There is a number of channels for ``information exchange’’ for the lecture. If there will be physical lectures, which is unclear, of course one can just ask during the lectures; the direct way is often the best. The situation, however, is still fragile. The university has bought some digital communication ``solutions’’, like mattermost and padlet (not to forget canvas).

They are intended to facilitate discussions and exchange between the lecturer and students, or also among participants. That’s a good idea. How useful those platforms are depends largely on the course’s participants. Last two semesters, the usefulness (I think) was low to moderate, at best. I don’t even know if people did read things I posted there. There was very few feedback, and no discussion, so I did not have the impression, the participants was using those platform as information source, let alone communication solution. Let’s see how it works this semester. Ay any rate, I won’t use those channels for official announcements. I can encourage to look at those things, if one finds it useful it good, but it’s not mandatory.

Also posts like this welcome message are not official (administrative) course information. I plan to use this channel mostly for writing additional remarks concerning the content of the lecture, for instance background, perhaps clarifying questions that came during the lecture. I won’t use padlet or mattermost for longer texts, since I don’t want to type lengthy things into their web forms, and who knows, if next semester, there will be a new tools, and the information is gone, or needs to be ``ported’’.

For official announcements (like ``change of date for the exam’’ or ``lecture cancelled’’, whatever) from my side about things that you should be aware of, I will use the

and direct emails. Not all announcements at the bekjeder-place will be important, but important ones (if there will be need for it), will be there.

Actually, probably the REALLY official announcements and pieces of information are inside the studentweb or similar platforms or sent via email by the student administration. Note: I have no access to the studentweb, I can neither send messages there nor can I check what information is in there, for instance whether someone is registered for the exam.